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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 05:45 GMT 06:45 UK
Analysis: Mixed messages on crime
A graph showing a reported drop in the number of crimes committed
The British Crime Survey says crime has fallen

Up, down ... sideways even. The latest crime statistics have something for everyone and have led to some confusion.

That is because there is not just one set of figures but two.

The recorded crime statistics reflect those offences in the official figures compiled by the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

On the other hand, the British Crime Survey (BCS) is based on interviews with the public. This year is the largest sample ever at more than 30,000 people having taken part.

Launch new window : Facts and figures
Crime figures by key offence and region

The BCS picks up crimes that may not be reported to the police like low-level assaults and criminal damage. To further add to the complexity, police forces are beginning to adopt a new set of standards over the way they record crime.

A car is broken into
Certain kinds of crime have fallen
This, according to the government's number crunchers, adds a 5% increase to the recorded crime figures.

These figures also include information on the public perception of crime and police detection rates which, on the face of it, seem to vary widely.

The government is not making too much of that fact but merely says police officers should be questioning why detection rates in similar areas should be different.

According to the recorded crime figures (after subtracting the 5% increase for new reporting criteria) crime overall has increased by 2%. In contrast, the British Crime Survey says it has fallen by 2%.

Stable crime situation

The line from the government is that this reflects a stable situation, with crime not increasing after several years of declining crime figures, in particular 14% down since 1999.

But within that overall picture by picking a year in the past, the government has been able to point to significant declines in certain types of crime.

For example, according to the British Crime Survey, domestic burglary is down by 39% since 1997.

Launch new window : burglary figures
20 years of burglary

It also maintains that the chances of being a victim of crime remain at around the lowest levels since the British Crime Survey came into being in 1981.

Youths on a street corner
Robberies have soared by more than 25 percent
However robbery - demanding or taking something with the use or threat of violence - has apparently soared by 28% according to the Recorded Crime figures compared with the previous year.

The British Crime survey shows this type of offence at even higher levels but government statisticians say the comparison is not as fair because of a relatively small sample the year before.

Although robbery only represents 2% of total crime, street crime is a politically high profile issue. More than 40% of street crime happens in London - and it is a crime that has a strong impact on the victim.

The government believes this rise is fuelled by a combination of teenagers preying on other young people, thefts of mobile phones on the streets and crime fuelled by the use of class A drugs like heroin and crack cocaine.

The Metropolitan Police recently released some figures that appeared to show the government's street crime initiative, launched in February, is reducing street crime.

Something the government will want to see everywhere else when the next crime figures are released.

The BBC's Jane O' Brien in Birmingham
"Now any crime is logged - that's what has pushed the statistics up"
Home Office Minister John Denham
"Across the vast majority of crimes, levels are lower now"

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